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Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, commonly referred to simply as Parnelli or VPJ, was a motor racing constructor and team from the USA. The team was formed in 1969 by former USAC racer Parnelli Jones and his business partner Velco "Vel" Miletich. Parnelli was initially solely concerned with USAC racing, where success came quickly; their driver Al Unser won the Indianapolis 500 race in 1970, driving a VPJ Lola car, after leading 191 of the 200 racing laps. Unser repeated the Indy 500 win and added the USAC National Championship title the following year.

Parnelli secured the services of ex-Team Lotus designer Maurice Philippe and driver Mario Andretti for USAC racing in the early 1970s, and in 1974 decided to move into Formula One racing, with financial support from tire manufacturer Firestone. After a brief foray into Formula One at the end of the 1974 season, Vel's Parnelli Jones mounted a full campaign in 1975. Their Parnelli VPJ4 car owed much to Philippe's Lotus 72 design. It appeared for the North American races at the end of the 1974 season and was gradually developed through 1975. However, Firestone's decision to quit racing at the end of 1974 meant that a major partner was lost. Jones was unable to find a replacement title sponsor and despite improvements made to the car the team folded only three races into the 1976 season. Andretti only learned of the Formula One team's future from journalist Chris Economaki, as he sat in the car on the grid for the Long Beach Grand Prix. This led to some bad feeling between Andretti and Jones, and Andretti returned to Lotus for the remainder of the season. In total, Vel's Parnelli Jones participated in 16 Grands Prix and scored 6 championship points.

Following the aborted F1 campaign Vel's Parnelli Jones returned to their focus on USAC racing. Later in 1976 VPJ was the first team to construct a turbocharged version of Cosworth's legendary DFV V8 Formula One engine, building on their experience from the previous two years. This private project was quickly adopted by Cosworth itself, and the Parnelli engine evolved into the equally legendary Cosworth DFX, an engine which would go on to win every Indianapolis 500 race and USAC/CART Championship between 1978 and 1987.

In actuality, concurrent with the F1 venture, VPJ Racing was developing the turbo Cosworth Indy engine in the facility in Torrance California under the direction of engine builder Larry Slutter and dyno engineer "Chicky" Hiroshima. The car debuted at the Speedway in 1975 in a modified Indy version of the F1 Parnelli chassis. It was not raced in 1975 but went on from there to be the famous Cosworth Turbo engine and Parnelli chassis run by Al Unser and Danny Ongais.

Complete Formula One results

(key)

Year Driver Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Pts. WCC
1974 Mario Andretti Parnelli VPJ4 Ford V8 ARG
BRA
RSA
ESP
BEL
MON
SWE
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
AUT
ITA
CAN
7
USA
DSQ
0 -
1975 Mario Andretti Parnelli VPJ4 Ford V8 ARG
Ret
BRA
7
RSA
17
ESP
Ret
MON
Ret
BEL
SWE
4
NED
FRA
5
GBR
12
GER
10
AUT
Ret
ITA
Ret
USA
Ret
5 10th
1976 Mario Andretti Parnelli VPJ4B Ford V8 BRA RSA
6
USW
Ret
ESP BEL MON SWE FRA GBR GER AUT NED ITA CAN USA JPN 1 13th

References

  • Lyons, P. 2007. Keeping up with the Jones. Motor Sport. LXXXIII/1 (January 2007), 52-59
  • Race results are drawn from www.ChicaneF1.com.
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